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Fairbanks, Alaska

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Ward Merdes
Ward Merdes
Attorney • (866) 735-1102 Ext 455

Staying Right-Of-Center On Alaskan Roads – Here’s The Law

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A slew of horrible car crashes have haunted Alaska over the past weeks – almost every one involving a driver crossing the center-line. This seems particularly prevalent on the Parks Highway. Because most of the Parks is posted at 65 MPH, increased speed likely plays a part. We also are seeing crashes caused by inexperience drivers – many of whom are in Alaska for military service.

Get both good tires (Blizzak) and trained for Alaskan driving. Frankly, I don’t see a good reason why winter driving training is not mandatory for military families. It is sad – the number of young husbands (and wives) who contact us each year, after their spouse/kid is injured or killed in a car crash. We’re seeing an Avalanche of these claims. It’s just not right … more importantly, it’s preventable. Blizzak tires aren’t expensive. Winter driving instruction is cheap. Go to http://www.slowdownalaska.org/drivingtips.html – item #10.

For folks who have been victimized by on-coming drivers crossing the center-line, here are the Alaska “Rules of the Road” addressing: (1) staying right-of-center; and (2) driving the appropriate speed for conditions. Be sure to share these with any insurance company who suggests that you should share fault with an on-coming driver who strayed into your lane. We are seeing more-and-more insurance companies trying to foist a portion of blame upon drivers who stayed in their own lane, arguing they should have “avoided” an on-coming motorist who crossed over the center-line. It’s incredible to me that insurance companies make these arguments. At the same time, little surprises us these days. It seems insurance companies will make just about any argument to avoid paying a claim. Be sure to include the following in your communication with such insurers:

1. 3 AAC 02.050. Driving on right side of roadway – exceptions and special situations

(a) Upon a roadway of sufficient width, a vehicle must be driven upon the right half of the roadway….

2. 13 AAC 02.085. Driving on roadways laned for traffic

(a) A vehicle must be driven as nearly as practicable within a single lane, and may not be moved from that lane until the driver has first ascertained that the movement can be made with safety.

3. 13 AAC 02.095. Use of divided and controlled-access highways – restrictions

(a) When a highway has been divided into two or more roadways by an intervening space, physical barrier, or clearly indicated dividing section constructed to impede vehicular traffic, every vehicle must be driven on the right-hand roadway unless directed or permitted to use another roadway by an official traffic-control device, police officer, fireman or authorized flagman. No vehicle may be driven over, across, or within the dividing space, barrier, or section, except through an opening or at an established crossover or intersection, unless specifically directed to do so by state or local authority.

4. 13 AAC 02.275. Basic rule and maximum limits

(a) No person may drive a vehicle at a speed greater than is reasonable and prudent considering the traffic, roadway, and weather conditions.

Stand firm. Don’t let an insurance company tell you that you share ANY fault if an on-coming driver strayed into your lane. You have EVERY right to drive prudently, within the speed limit, in your own lane.

Also, keep your eye on Alaska’s Statute of Limitations. It is two years. You have to either informally resolve your claims, or file a lawsuit within two years of your wreck, or you will lose valuable legal rights, including the right to compensation. This is very important.

Now let’s all slow down out there. The ice and bitter cold is making this a treacherous winter. Always drive with your headlights illuminated – even during the day. Lit headlamps are the cheapest insurance you can buy. If you have further questions, go to www.SlowDownAlaska.org. It includes a ton of free advise for surviving Alaskan roads.